Azure Cool Blob Storage | What, Why & How?

What is Azure Cool Blob Storage?

Few days back Microsoft Azure storage team added a new variant of  a storage offering called Cool Blobs. Like Amazon S3, Azure blob storage is a low cost object storage offering for Azure which enables you store your backup, media content such as images and videos, scientific data, compliance and archival data.

Why Cool Blob Storage?

Cool Blob Storage is ideal of infrequent accessed object data, that is data accessed less than once a month. Based  on the frequency of access, you can select between Hot or Cool access tiers for a storage account now. Cool Blob Storage provides following benefits for you as an end user.

  • Cost effective: Data stored at cool access tier comes at a lower price point as low as $0.01 per GB in some regions, where data you store in a hot storage tier start at $0.024 in some regions.
  • Compatibility: This is  100% API compatible with exiting Azure Blob storage and you can use this new type of storage accounts right away in your exiting applications.
  • Performance: Both Hot and Cool tiers have the same performance in terms of latency and throughput.
  • Availability:The data write SLA for Hot access tier is 99.99% where it is 99% for Cool tier. Also the read SLA is 99.99% for Hot tier where it is 99.9 for the Cold tier by leveraging the Read Access-Geo Redundant Storage, storage replica option in Azure.
  • Durability: Unlike Amazon S3 which guarantees you have Nine 11s (99.999999999%) of durability, Microsoft guarantees that your data will never be lost.  The AWS S3 SLA really interprets as “If you store 10,000 objects with us, on average we may lose one of them every 10 million years or so. This storage is designed in such a way that we can sustain the concurrent loss of data in two separate storage facilities.” Both Hot and Cool storage tiers in Azure provide the same high durability that Azure is currently offering which is 0% data loss.
  • Scalability and Security: The same scalability and security options in Azure Storage is provided in the new Blob storage accounts tiers as well.

How to deploy?

Let’s explore how you can create a new blob storage account with hot or cold access tiers in Azure GUI. Notice that this is only possible with ARM storage accounts not with classic storage. Also as of now this feature is only supported in storage accounts with standard performance.Blob Storage 1Changing the access tier is easy and takes only a click of a button.

Blob Storage 2

FAQs

Can I store my VM’s in cool/hot storage? No. Azure IaaS VM disks require page blobs and this is offered only in block blobs.
Can I convert my existing storage account to a Blob storage account? No. You need to create a new storage account or migrate data from an existing storage account to a new account.
Is this available in the classic model? No. This only supports ARM based deployments.
Can I have both hot/cool tiers in a single storage account? Not at this time. The access tier attribute is set at an account level and applies to all objects in that account.
Will I be charged for changing the access tier of my blob storage account? Changing the access tier at an account level will apply to all objects stored in the account. If you are changing from from hot to cool there won’t be any charge but changing from cool to hot will incur a per GB cost for reading all the data in the storage account.

 

 

Another Year as a Microsoft MVP | What’s Next

MVP Award

Last Friday (Yes I know it’s April Fools Day) Microsoft informed me that that I’ve been awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Award again in 2016. In 2015 I was awarded as a System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management MVP and this year as a Cloud and Datacenter Management MVP which is the new award category for all things Cloud and Datacenter related. Today I’m going to share my journey to the cloud and how I became part of this amazing community.

My Story

21 years back (I was in kindergarten back then. So you can probably guess my actual age now) when I first laid my hands on a computer I knew that computers were the right match for me. Back then computers were a luxury and luckily in the bank where my mom and dad worked, computers were replacing the old electronic typewriters. My mom was one of the first employees who had the chance to be trained in Microsoft Office & Lotus Notes (Still she is the Office specialist in our home). So after school I used to visit her at the bank and I was amazed to work on MS-DOS and play with the computer whenever I was allowed.

I grew up with two amazing older brothers who have been my first critics, partners in crime and most importantly the first leaders in my life. My eldest brother Udeni sold his motor bike in 2001 to purchase a Pentium III computer with 40 GB hard disk and 64 MB RAM (Cool specs though at that time). Me and my elder sibling Nalin used to crash his computer when he is not around. Udeni had always given me the chance to do the new experiments using that PC ( being the youngest means that you are the guinea pig). Most of these new experiments were utter failures and we even had days/months long fights.

In the year 2000, me along with Nalin got into a computer programme for kids when both of us won a scholarship. This is where my first steps towards formal IT education started. Windows 98, ME, XP all that excitement led me to chose my first MCP course in Visual Basic.NET in 2005.

I never fit into the education system in my country. In fact when all my friends passed their G.C.E A/Ls (high school finals) with top results and got selected to the universities, here I was with three simple passes, without any option but to take the exam again. I was in college brass band for 7 years, music was my second passion except IT. I had no plan when I met my fiancée Aloka 9 years back, while we were still high school students.  Her friends often complained that I might lead to a complete disaster in the end. But she always believed that I can make a difference and always encouraged me to look for other means of higher education.

By that time, Nalin has started his career as banker like my parents and he had a vision to support my education in anyway he can. He told my folks “Whatever the little one wants to do let’s support him. I’m sure he is going to nail it” and immediately I started following a Telecom Diploma along with the British Computer Society Professional Qualifications after high school. I enrolled in to a government diploma in Electrical Power Engineering while I was pursuing my passion in IT and somewhere along the way I felt that it was not my thing. So I gave that up 🙂

How it all started

When I graduated (not with flying colours) it took me 6 months to land my first job in IT. My first employer was a long standing ISP + Managed Services Provider and I had a bunch of awesome colleagues who taught me what it takes to be a professional. In fact the first task given to me by my immediate supervisor Pratheesh, is to assemble at least three working PCs out of some remnant PC parts which I thought nonsense at first. Later when we became close friends (still he and the gang are my best friends) he told me that, at first he wondered how I got this job, a person who is always asking so many questions and talks too much. Nevertheless within the short time I spent with them I learned a lot and it was a turning point in my career.

I’ve done various IT jobs. I’ve been frequently asked the question “why do you change your place of work so often?”. I’m after knowledge and when I saturate at one place, I tend to explore what more I can learn from the outside and move on. It’s not just the benefits but I need to be laser focused on what I love most, sharing and improving my knowledge. Only a few understood the logic behind what I’m doing. I’m not an average IT professional who sits back and relax, I always try to innovate and this will always put me a in challenging ride.

Madura Sonnadara, one of the best superior’s that a person can have was my boss back in 2013 and he always wanted me to learn something new and share it with my peers. This led me to involve with Microsoft communities and my friend MVP Gogula showed me the importance of contributing back. So I started a blog, started engaging in TechNet forums. I focused more towards the cloud from 2012 and taken many Microsoft & Red Hat examinations to keep myself challenged. I’ve also had a great support from my ex-boss Raymond Chou (who also is a CDM MVP by the way) to polish my skills into a whole new level.

On 1st of April 2015 when I didn’t notice any notification from the MVP programme I felt discouraged and sad. MVP Hasitha, my mentor/senior while I was at Infront Consulting was rather upset than myself and told me to not to lose the passion. I decided to contribute more and more whether I’m going to be a MVP or not. The e-mail was actually there in the Junk folder and here I was the very first SCCDM MVP in Sri Lanka. I got the chance to work with so many MVPs worldwide, I presented in many conferences, engaged with more communities during the last MVP programme year. It took a lot of energy to keep up with these constantly changing technologies but I still believe that keeping myself updated is the best way that I can feel challenged and have a meaning  in my life.

What’s ahead in 2016 for me?

This year I’m going to invest my time significantly on couple of key technologies. Microsoft Azure Stack, Red Hat & OSS on Azure, Enterprise Mobility, Azure Automation & PowerShell DSC are some of areas that I’m currently focused on. I’ve always been an OSS advocate so I couldn’t be much happier when Microsoft embraced OSS with it’s top selling products such as Azure & Windows 10. Basically the plan is to learn more, engage more and contribute more like everyday is the last day on planet Earth. I’m a devoted Buddhist and as Buddhist I believe that what we do today will define the future. So today will always be a good day to start.

Where you can find me in 2016?

I will be a presenter at some of the top cloud and data center conferences around the world in 2016. I’ll be there at SCU Europe, Berlin in August and then PowerShell Conference Asia in Singapore. Being an active community geek I made a lot of friends all over the world. I meet most of them in various locations that I travel, and it always makes me realize what a small world we live in. Also running our local user group Sri Lanka IT PRO Forum has always kept me busy and if you are around Colombo by any chance, you can come and join us at anytime. I’ll be presenting, organizing, helping a quite a number of local/international user groups and events as long as they got something to do with a cloud (or at least there should be a silver lining in it) throughout 2016 and beyond.

My message to you

Take a risk whenever you can. If you don’t take the necessary risks you may well end-up in the same place for the rest of your life. Start teaching others and you will learn a lot by just doing that. The enthusiasm to contribute back to the community and learn from the community was the key to unlock this door for me. Raise your voice, share your opinion on technology and get engaged. Ask the questions, get it right and help someone to understand what you have learned. The moment you stop learning will be the moment you stop breathing.

Being an MVP is a journey not a destination.

This has been a rather long post but I wanted to share something that has inspired me as a little kid, teenager and as an adult. Following is from Nikolai Ostrovsky’s famous novel How Steel was Tempered.

Man’s dearest possession is life. It is given to him but once, and he must live it so as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years, never know the burning shame of a mean and petty past; so live that, dying, he might say: all my life, all my strength were given to the finest cause in all the world──the fight for the Liberation of Mankind.

Knowledge is power, so share it in anyway you can. What could possibly be a more better way to fight for humanity’s liberation, than empowering the society with knowledge? Start sharing today and you’ll achieve more than you’d ever imagined.

Exporting your Azure Resource Groups to ARM Templates | Part 2

In my previous post I showed you how we can export Azure resource groups into ARM templates using the Azure Portal. For those of us who are not GUI fans (including myself) Azure PowerShell and Azure CLI provide cmdlets/commands to leverage the export feature for cloning, redeploying and automating Azure resource group deployments.

Azure PowerShell

With the latest Azure PowerShell you can execute below cmdlet to export a running resource group to an ARM template.

Export-AzureRmResourceGroup -ResourceGroupName <RG name> -Path <template path>

To export resource groups from a previous deployment you may use the below cmdlet syntax.

Save-AzureRmResourceGroupDeploymentTemplate -DeploymentName <Deployment Name> -ResourceGroupName <RG Name>-Path <template path>

Azure CLI

You can use the following syntax to export a running resource group to an ARM template.

azure group export <name> [template path]

Use below command syntax to export to an ARM template from a previously deployed Resource Group

group deployment template download [options] <resource-group> <name> [directory]

 

Exporting your Azure Resource Groups to ARM Templates | Part 1

Have you ever wanted to clone your resource group  deployment in Azure to another subscription or perhaps redeploy again without manual interaction with GUI? Now you can export your resource groups as ARM templates and redeploy wherever you want without having further barriers. Let’s explore how to use this feature in Azure.

Export from an existing Resource Group Deployment

When you select a resource group you can see the Export Template option in Settings.

Export RG to ARM (1)

Export RG to ARM (1)

Export from a previous deployment

In your resource group select the particular deployment slot and you will have the option to export that particular slot with parameters submitted for that specific instance of deployment.

Export RG to ARM (5)

Saving and Redeploying to a new resource group

Alternatively you have the option to Save the template and it will be saved under Browse > Templates in the Azure Portal.

Export RG to ARM (6)

Export RG to ARM (4)

Selecting the Deploy button will allow you to start a new deployment.

Export RG to ARM (3)

Keep in mind that currently not all the resource types are supported in with export feature. For an example you may encounter failure s when you try to export resources such as WebApps, Service Bus, Stream Analytics etc… Following is such an error which happened when we tried to export a resource group with Service Bus resources.

The schema of resource type ‘Microsoft.ServiceBus/namespaces’ is not available. Resources of this type will not be exported to the template. (Code: ResourceTypeSchemaNotFound)

This has been reported to Microsoft and this post will be updated once Microsoft provide a list of supported resource types/add more and more supported resource types to this feature. Right now I can confirm that IaaS resources are fully supported in this feature.

In this next post let’s see how we can leverage Azure PowerShell or Azure CLI to export resource groups into ARM templates.